Monday, January 17, 2011


I can't walk safely outside a house these days without support. At home, I do use a cane to walk from the dining-room into the-living room, but I don't use one upstairs, as I migrate from my bedroom to the bathroom, my office, or the stairs. I have two canes, one furnished by Kaiser Permanente, my health insurer; and another one which can be pulled apart into three pieces--useful when it has to be packed.

What I like to do is to use a cane (preferably in my right hand) and be supported by a friendly right arm accepting my left arm.. My dear wife, actually a few months older than I am, is fit and spry, and walks daily for pleasure. For much of the past few years, it has been she who has supplied the "friendly arm". For some time, she has been encouraging me to try to move around without linking arms with her.

I have tried using two poles, one in each hand, and that works reasonably well for short distances on flat land. Since we live on a hill, and Barbara can no longer drive me down to the flatlands, this is not a very satisfactory solution.

We have a four-wheel walker with a basket, and this walker can be set to act as a portable seat for me. I like that, but it also requires flat land and transportation to reach level ground. Again, not a satisfactory solution. There are battery-powered wheelchairs and "scooters", but I'm not ready to cope with either yet. Besides, they really aren't very well fitted for my needs.

When we go to concerts, the theater, a restaurant, or a meeting, we usually go by car, driven by a helper, and then I walk in, with a cane and someone's arm. When I visit a grocery store, a "basket" to transport our purchases doubles very well as a walker. It has the advantage to my vanity that there are other shoppers, not needing the support that I need, also pushing a grocery store's shopping basket.

For weeks, Barbara was telling me that I should buy a lightweight walker. I made a few brownie points when I showed her an ad for a discounted two-wheel lightweight model. The store was in Hayward, calling for a round trip of close to fifty miles. It had occurred to me that the distance might happily cause a further delay--but Barbara was determined, so quickly went to the store with our driver, coming back with the perfect answer to her pleas.

We tried it out for an Early Music concert recently. We had dinner at The Musical Offering (a restaurant which shares the space with the record store), perhaps 200 yards from the church where we were to hear the music. I hated using the walker! It took us perhaps ten minutes to walk that short distance.

There was the annual party afterward--free wine and delicious finger food, an annual event I had enjoyed many times over the years. I told Barbara that i really didn't want to walk back to The Musical Offering. So we arranged to be picked up outside the church, and went home to bed.

I realize that a major part of my resistance is because I am being taken out of my "comfort zone". There is also the psychological factor of appearing weak. It's no fun getting old and immobile! As a contemporary friend of ours puts it: "Growing old is not for sissies".. I prefer to rejoice that, thanks to our driver, we can still attend concerts and plays, eat at restaurants, go shopping, attend meetings in San Francisco--and I can attend church each Sunday.

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